Dream on

So Doug said that I was only looking out for myself, lining my own pockets and that I really only make ‘it’ all up as I go along …

There are times when hearing a declaration such as this that I deny all knowledge, refute the evidence and argue until I was almost ‘blue in the face.’

I’d just finished a conversation suggesting that Doug’s working practice was not conducive to better business. I tactfully (so I thought) pointed out that he couldn’t keep breaking appointments and disappointing colleagues, therefore it was in his own best interest and that of the Forum, that he should consider standing aside so that another might take his place as the ‘specialist in the room.’

It hadn’t gone down particularly well …

‘But they’re my friends, my customers.’ Came the reply.

Really, so is this how you treat your valued clients Doug?

Doug was right about a couple of things though. I was making up the business model as I went along. After all, I had twenty-five years experience in such matters and by now I had a good idea of what worked and perhaps what did not. It was also true when Doug suggested I was out to make a living for myself.

After all, as a business Forum, most are attending for the connection, I am no different to anyone else who habitually met with others at a given time and place to discuss lead and referral. The opportunity is there for anyone wishing to inform and inspire others to collaborate.

I’m attending regularly, offering myself the same valuable ‘air-time’ as anyone else who regularly attended the network Forum. We’re not having to think about ‘fees,’ or any direct competition in the room, this particular field of business is dead level, completely transparent.

An easy environment to tell us what you want so that we may see how we can help you.

If you are not attending we do not see you, if we don’t see or hear you, we cannot develop the relationship or consider the trust, let alone the referral.

Think reputation Doug.

December, morning coffee…

It was a typically dark, cold December morning and I was more than pleased when Natasha (and coffee) arrived, just as I surveyed the setting for today’s business over breakfast.

We wouldn’t be alone for long though, as approaching headlights suggested the first of our company this morning were on their way.

Nice and early Martin!’ I said, glancing at the clock on the clubhouse wall, 06.45.

Courtesy of the ‘Missus,’ Charlie. My car had broken-down over the weekend so Sue and the kids kindly offered a lift, they needed to be at school early anyway … I’ll be meeting ‘Bruce the garage’ here as he’s running me back after today’s meeting to attend the vehicle.

‘Sounds like a plan Martin.’

The tail-lights of ‘taxi Sue’s’ car receded in the distance, dawn was finally on its way as were others for our weekly business meeting.

Even in the midst of winter, we enjoyed a good attendance, plenty of interaction, lots of  discussion, the business flowed and with a near full-house … apart from ‘Bruce the garage.’

Martin had received a message to say he’d been called out for ‘an emergency’ and that he’d be in touch asap.

‘The best-laid plans eh, Martin?’

Any chance of a lift over my way Charlie?

Among those at the meeting, someone managed the lift Martin needed with an added bonus … the driver knew he could hook-up Martin with an alternative local garage – a ‘start-up’ looking for more business so it wasn’t long before Martin was back on the road and ‘taxi Sue’ back in the old routine.

‘Bruce the garage’ had left an impression, sadly nothing to enamour his reputation as the ‘go to’ service either.

Today in business, relationships matter. Even more so if you are a service provider, business is personal. It’s not what you have or what you can do that impresses your next best client, it’s how you relate.

community network

Community-focused networking has lots of benefits, some are immediately evident, others need clarification and I was witness to this just recently as around twenty met over ‘brunch.’

Our guest was Michael has a lot of domestic responsibility, being the ‘office at home’ and supporting two young kids. He loved the idea of opportunity through engagement, connecting with others in business. The same for many sharing a similar routine these days …

‘Great business today Charlie, met some good people and so glad I accepted your invitation.’

It’s taking that first step, isn’t it? That’s where the intimidation lies, right? Stepping outside of the ‘comfort zone’ into an alien landscape, we all become moulded by our routines and I think Michael was no exception.

With a greater number working from the home office, we soon realise the value of people.

‘I didn’t know what to expect really. Although, I was half expecting the selly-sell, and/or the ‘sign-up’ so today was a refreshing change.’

‘Yes Michael, it is good to have you with us and course there are those who come along fishing for business, with focus on the referral. Others Michael, are just as happy to engage views, share the dialogue, focus on areas of passion, of need and the point of view, not to mention collaboration and to ultimately sample the ‘culture.’

Business is at times a secondary consideration – or ‘the bonus’ as some put it.

Seems to me, the development of community engagement is important, not least because it inspires better efficiencies by creating belonging. Along with a clear infrastructure, community helps us all, in whatever line business.

Most especially, those working from the home office.

‘Happy people mean a happy business, right?’

True Michael, cultivating the community network has enabled many to plan for the realisation of longer-term goals, the chance to step away from the monthly/quarterly led management figures and visualise the ‘bigger picture’.

Cultivating community delivers so much more. Community inspires relationships, affinity, infrastructure and ultimately the trust – then comes referral.

The human experience

I’ve been around a while, discovered some success and I’m blessed to have been working with some wonderfully talented people.

Over time I’ve also discovered that success is powered by three fundamentals.

Your know-how, your reputation and your network of contacts.

Sounds simple don’t you think? Isn’t that how it should be though?

Hey, you can take away all my money, all my assets and investments, you can take away my customer list as well but if you leave me my business relationships and with my reputation in place … I’ll have the ability to work at successfully replacing everything you’ve taken away.

Having knowledge, social capital and trust is the ultimate security blanket whether we’re heading into good times or bad.

This is why I believe that if we’re in business, any time is an excellent time to increase market share. Whether we’re engaging new prospects, building better relationships with existing customers, we’re developing trust, that’s essentially what we’re about, are we not?

Engaging, building and relating …

Contrary to popular opinion though, building social capital is not about sitting alone in front of the PC, tablet or locked into your i-phone trying to come up with a winning marketing formula all on your own …

No one who is successful creating their meaningful marketing presence works in isolation.

Successful people may have started out on their own sure enough. After all, we need to start to reach the end. But it’s what you do when you recognise your marketing is starting to work for you that counts. That’s when you begin to leverage your ambitions with like-minded people, real humans and combine your ideas with others, leveraging experiences and relationships.

By developing trust within your community, delivering consistent messages … and leveraging that trust is where we may ultimately be successful.

Time tells …

It was one of those clear, crisp Autumn mornings … so wife, father-in-law (George) and I took some time to walk down through the gardens to the church yard. We crossed the old ‘falling-down’ bridge and up, through the gates leading to our destination.

We were here just last month. George had wanted to show us the grave of his own grandmother, laid to rest some 80 years past and a headstone still offering a surprisingly easy read to the stone inscription. George had a question regarding ‘Stephen,’ the family member mentioned and accompanying, ‘Harold’ who had been killed at the Somme …

Stephen had been unaccounted for.

George could identify with certain stories his mother passed on about Harold over time though had he not heard anything about Stephen. It was clear he wished to learn more.

So I’d asked a friend (genealogist) to spend some time and research George and his part of the family and it was just a short time later he returned with news. Stephen had been formally listed as missing in action (MIA) although our current investigation tells us now … Stephen had survived certain wounds in hospital, outlasted the war and after a time he’d been traced living in southern Europe with his adopted family!

What would ‘they’ have thought!

A bemused George led us away past a mature ‘Wingnut’ tree spanning some 18 metres and which was looking all of it’s 25 years … clearly more than a little past prime time.

These get-away too fast, they’re bonnie trees but just too keen to tak a hold and lose their way in the soft earth n the ‘clarts.’ That’ll be felled afore lang.’ stated George.

Thats canny good ower there ‘ George directed our gaze to a ‘Cypress,’ the same age as our Wingnut though not as tall at just a little over 3 metres. Straight and strong.

Added George, ‘that’n will be heor long affta that big-un is gone, these tyek thor time te establish yee knaa.’

I continued to mull-over (interpret?) George’s view, taking time to dwell over insights to the headstone, those long overlooked facts uncovered, laying hidden until now …

Aye, yee could write a book aboot tha un.’ says George wistfully.

‘Now there was an idea.’ I thought to myself … half listening and thoroughly pre-occupied with our trees. While George pondered his own questions, I observed my own relationship with colleagues throughout our regular business referral group …

George, I thought … I’d much rather understand the advantages time spent building solid foundations than the results the alternative may bring…

Lessons from The Bridge

It was ‘after hours’ and (unlike me) I found myself on my way to a pre-arranged meet with friends and colleagues at London House Of Lords (!) … ‘come along’ they said, ‘it may be worthwhile simply to take a look at the place.’

As I alighted at the station and made my way, I noticed I was a little early and headed toward the Millennium Wheel, just for a peek.

Half way along the bridge I was struck by a vision out of the corner of my eye…

She clung to the lamp stanchion in the damp half-light of a miserable February evening. Pleading to passers-by, anyone …

‘Give me a cigarette or I’m jumping from this bridge …’

My focus from the distant wheelie attraction wavered upon hearing these words and my gazed fixed upon the eyes of what appeared to be desperation.

‘Social Security have taken my children, I’ve nothing to live for … someone give me a cigarette, please.’

Without hesitation I reached for the Marlboro, half-wondering why it was that no-one else had bothered to heed what appeared desperate cries from just a few metres away.

‘I need to speak with the Prime Minister, get me the Prime Minister otherwise I’m going over this bridge.’

I stood for a few minutes in the middle of Westminster Bridge listening to the repeated pleas from this stranger and realised she was seriously considering action if her wishes were not met.

‘Sort her out mate.’ Came comment from one direction. ‘Silly cow!’ From the other.

Am I dreaming? I wasn’t the only one in earshot but I was the only one #listening. What??

I motioned a move for my mobile and suggested to my new friend I’d call the Prime Minister and managed eventually to make contact with the city police.

Our distressed conversation continued, further cigarettes passed and it wasn’t long before a police motor-launch appeared atop the murky water, some 15 metres below.

My new best friend again repeated her threat to end it all. I’d run out of cigarettes.

‘Having trouble with the missus?’ A call from a passer-by …

Amongst the rush hour din our fragile ‘conversation’ continued when one demand led to another and I found I’d simply run out of patience …

I bleated: ‘Ok, if it’s so bad, then throw yourself from the bridge and get it over with then …’

It was not the thing to say; although now I could not help notice her eyes were now transfixed on me. I had at least gained her full attention.

‘Help me please.’ she continued.

With the illuminating blue light I became aware of the presence of police standing either side of me and further afield, a gathering of bystanders  stood-by and gawped.

‘Now Sir, having trouble at home are we?’ Asked the male officer.

I bit my tongue and began to explain as the female police office made her way to our hapless subject.

‘You can’t stay up there all night my love, come on down. Why is it you want to throw yourself from the bridge anyway?’

Without hesitation my traitorous ‘friend’ shot a condemning finger in my direction and spat … ‘because he told me to.’

Now was my opportunity to depart further earshot and as reinforcements managed the further conversation and coaxing, I headed toward my meeting just opposite, beyond the murk at the House Of Lords promenade.

Our guests that evening were representing a major mental health charity.

Our host had offered them a ‘tour’ of the facilities and while the party awaited my arrival they were witness to the commotion ‘across the water’ through the dim light, toward Westminster Bridge.

Now the story I related to all that would listen that night needed no fantasy. I was happy to be away from the commotion and just as enthusiastic in relating my experience of ‘new best friend’ to colleagues.

Also very interested were our special guests, who took particular interest in my own support for someone less fortunate than himself and who of course had found someone within the entourage that evening who may just have the affinity and potential trust required for ongoing business relations …

#networking is an opportunity. #success takes time and #participation, #empathy to build #trust and most of all … #patience.

 

PS … Unlike friends reading here, I chose not to tell my colleagues how on that wintry night my lack of patience almost let me down badly.

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